National Grid Unveils Plan to Slash Emissions

Developed alongside Siemens Power Technology International, the report from the energy supplier targets an 80 percent greenhouse gas reduction in its operating area by 2050.

National Grid, a major electricity and natural gas provider in the Northeast, has unveiled its plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. 

Entitled Northeast 80×50 Pathway, the report highlights three major shifts necessary to reach an interim 40 percent reduction by 2030: accelerating decarbonization of the electric sector; electrifying light-duty transportation; and overhauling heating methods through enhanced efficiency, electrification and oil-to-gas conversion. National Grid, which serves more than 20 million people in New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, developed the plan in collaboration with Siemens Power Technology International.

Zero-carbon electricity currently accounts for more than 50 percent of the Northeast’s electricity generation. Roughly 25 percent of the total comes from renewable electricity, including large-scale hydropower. In order for the region to achieve the 2030 targets, total zero-carbon generation must increase to 67 percent of supply, with the renewable electricity’s share rising to nearly 50 percent.

In 2015, emissions from power generation were nearly 50 percent below 1990 levels. The decrease occurred thanks to energy efficiency measures, conversion from coal and oil-based generation to natural gas, and consistent deployment of renewable electricity. Overall emissions for the Northeast in 2015 declined 16 percent reduction below 1990 levels.

Transportation revamp

Emissions from transportation are effectively unchanged since 1990. However, the electric vehicle industry offers a promising pathway, especially in light of the steadily improving performance of battery technology. 

According to the report, even with the current power generation mix in the Northeast, replacing a passenger car with an electric model reduces its carbon footprint on the order of 50 percent. Further improvements apply only as the grid becomes cleaner. Some 10 million electric passenger cars and light trucks—about half of all vehicles on the road—will have to be electric by 2030 in order to reach the interim goal.

Achieving the 2030 target economically implies significant reduction in the reliance on the most expensive and polluting heating fuels: fuel oil, propane and kerosene. It means that a rapid transition from these fuels to heat electrification is needed. By 2030, about 3.9 million homes are anticipated to be utilizing heat pumps, which translates to an average annual rate of conversion of almost 300,000 homes and businesses. Currently, adoption rates are more than 10 times lower, around 25,000 per year.

“For National Grid, climate change isn’t a political question, but scientific fact, and we believe that innovation and a diverse set of stakeholders at the table will enable us to reach the clean energy future that we all want,” Dean Seavers, US president of National Grid, said in a prepared statement. “Combating climate change will require inclusive discussions that span multiple organizations and industries, and we hope the Northeast 80×50 Pathway serves as a launching point for those conversations.”

Images courtesy of National Grid